Agendas: Let everyone know about upcoming events and topics

Body & Knowing Planning Discussion
Monday, September 29, 2008, 12:00 – 1:30 pm
140 Nolte Center, Institute for Advanced Study
In Attendance: Dan Casar, Ofelia Ferran, Jeff Hartman, Susie Hatmaker, Lisa Hiblink, Juanita
Huseby, Maki Isaka, Darin Johnson, Linda Johnson, Maggie Kennan, Karen Labatt, David
Lieberman, Adam Lindberg, Michelle Livingston, Guerino Mazzola, Colleen McCarthy, Lily
Miles, Gordon Murdock, Gregg Murray, Merry Rendahl, Randy Rodriguez, Harvey Sarles,
Natalie Schwerr, Susannah Smith, Ann Waltner, Lauren Wilcox
Agenda: Announcements. Introductions. Solicit input and suggestions about future plans or
new ideas.
The fall schedule for the Body Politic is now available. Subthemes are a new experiment for this
cycle, as is the attempt to get repeat audiences with regular public events on Wednesdays at four.
The spring schedule is still a work in progress but will be organized around the subject of “What
is ‘embodiment?’” Possible topics for future semesters include, for fall of 2009, “How do we
know the body?” – with possible presentations on chronobiology and medical imaging – and, for
spring of 2010, “Body, not body” – which could include body augmentation, humans and
animals, cyborgs, and genetic manipulation.
Faculty seminars are another new aspect of the University Symposium. This spring Juliette
Cherbuliez and Michael Gaudio will teach a faculty seminar “Beyond the Eye: Toward an
understanding of non-visual theories and methodologies.” In spring of 2010, Alan Love and
David Valentine will offer a different faculty seminar.
Thematic ideas:
Academics are in the business of making knowledge. The process of revealing texts and ideas
requires reinventing things and incorporating them into the body. The nature of the body is all
encompassing and offers a particular cut into the study of everything.
Body as physical matter. Theatrical or musical or written presentation of body and knowledge.
Interest in protest and bodies and resistance and violence.
Technology and body: How do we embody ourselves in an empty room by ourselves? In online
education, professors talk to students about spatial imaginaries. The classroom is an imagined
construct with many possible iterations. Student behavior is emitted in the particular space of
“the classroom” and it may be difficult to recreate elsewhere. In an online class, instructors are
asking students to internalize an imagined learning space that they might have difficulty
achieving even in the physical space.
Bodies and politics of power: how do you put bodies together in classrooms? The relationship
between the teacher and the taught is altered greatly through the circumstances of that
interaction. Learning is defined as navigating a knowledge space and defining it as you move
through it.
Etymology of space: How does the body move out through its environment? Different
definitions can limit space to three dimensions, can extend it through time, or can include its
spiritual potential.
Bodies and the Environment: What are the appropriate and ethical uses of space? Pollution,
smoking, and the rights to one’s surroundings, be they visual, olfactory, or health-centric are all
relatively recent concerns.
Possible presentation topics:
Virtual Bodies: Particularly in Second Life and in Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying
Games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft, the creation of avatars is an intrinsic part of
how individuals identify themselves. Creating new bodies and customizing them to interact with
very different social situations and environments than “real” bodies. Virtual economies place
very different restrictions on accessibility and technology is only limited by the ability of the
world building technology to replicate it, as opposed to the real world, where bodies are a
product of functional anatomy and environmental forces. Despite this, rules from outside, about
gender, size, crime and sex, all come in from outside world and start to take it over. People
choose what rules to follow and how they put themselves or their character into this world.
Movement is a good example of differences which can break down under examination, as other
people are “bumped” out of the way online, but, barely noticing this interference, is this any
different from a “real” individual voluntarily altering their path to avoid collision? Don’t ideas
about personal space vary from one culture to the next anyway?
The Body and Expression: Thoughts and electrical impulses in any given body aren’t accessible
to others. Humans rely heavily on facial expressions and body language to interpret the meaning
of others; far more than birds, mammals and fish. People are animals out of balance, and the
degree to which we receive information via sight or sound, over the television, radio or in
person, greatly limits and determines how we interpret experiences.
Body Alteration: Biomedical incorporation of technology into the body has become an accepted
part of life, from pacemakers to hearing aids to insulin regulators. But what are the ethics of
elective changes and the motivations behind them? Transsexuality and appearance-centered
plastic surgery are familiar aspects of this topic, but elective amputation is an even more radical
call to examine this area. Some individuals feel that a part of their body is incorrect or wrong in
some way and experience extreme psychological discomfort as a result. This has happened in
the real world and is also addressed in Catherine Dunn’s novel King Club. Is it ethical to do an
amputation for a psychological problem? Is it effective? How is this different from more
prosaic alterations such as tattooing, piercing or scarification? And to return to the medical
question, triple bypass surgery involves killing someone and bringing them back to life. Where
do we go next?